Quarterly Roundup – Q3 2015



1 Bitcoin = $239

People will understand that a currency beyond political manipulation is immensely valuable –Datavetaren


Our children will laugh at the silly flag money of yore. – Erik Voorhees


The story of Bitcoin itself is instructive. None of the “big players” had the capacity to invent it. They are NOT the big players anymore. The big players are the little developers. The anonymous. The adventurous. The big don’t know what’s happening; follow them into the ditch. – Beautyon


Transactions Per Day Double

The number of transactions per day on the Bitcoin network has nearly doubled in the last year, from ~70K/day in September 2014 to ~140K/day in September 2015 – Lee Banfield


Blockchain.info Now at 4.4 Million Wallets

August 2012: 15,000

January 2013: 100,000

August 2013: 400,000

January 2014: 1 million

August 2014: 2 million

March 2015: 3 million

August 2015: 4 million

September 2015: 4.4 million

Lee Banfield


‘How to Buy Bitcoin’ Google Searches

Since May, global number of searches on how to buy bitcoin is up 50%, highest in 18 months. – Tuur Demeester

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The Greatest Generational Opportunity

I think bitcoin is one of the greatest mispriced assets I’ve seen in my career. I am extremely bullish on bitcoin.

Given the investment capital and human capital dynamics pouring into this ecosystem, I believe bitcoin is one of the greatest generational opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs.

The easiest way for people to invest in this ecosystem is by simply buying bitcoin — which I like to characterize as a tracking stock representing this exciting, new frontier in technology, and well beyond. – Matthew Roszak


The Complete and Utter Abandonment of Fiat Money

One great benefit Bitcoin has already bestowed on humanity is that people are now using the term “fiat,” whereas before it was just “money” – Erik Voorhees

While many think that the monetary experiment that is Bitcoin could crash and burn at any moment, others are waiting for the day that it becomes the new reserve currency of the world. Erik Voorhees won’t be satisfied with Bitcoin’s hold on the world’s financial system until the latter of the two scenarios plays out. He said:

“The end zone for me is the complete and utter abandonment of fiat currency around the world. I think that will be the sign that we truly — we won. I mean, we’ll know we [won] long before that — maybe we already are [winning].

Fiat currency is a money that people are forced to use and [it] gets its value from force. It is a pen into which people are corralled, and through which all sorts of terrible manipulations are carried out on people.

Many of the ills of the world stem from it. The ability to inflate money and pay for things beyond what you can tax from a population is a very sneaky and terrible way that organizations maintain power over people. Getting rid of people’s dependence on fiat solves that problem to a large degree.”

Kyle Torpey




All Time High

The Bitcoin mining difficulty reached an all-time high in September 2015, almost double the level of September 2014.

The Bitcoin hashrate reached an all-time high of 510 petahash in September 2015, doubling from September 2014’s 250 petahash.

Two years ago, the Bitcoin network stood at just 1.4 petahash. – Lee Banfield


The Bitcoin Network vs. The World’s Largest Supercomputer

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Chris Dixon: The world’s largest (known) supercomputer is China’s Tianhe-2. 80,000 processors. 33,000,000,000,000,000 calcs/sec.

Alan Vazquez: Can it break Bitcoin?

Dan McAdrdle: No, Bitcoin network does ~375,000,000,000,000,000 *hashes*/sec, each of which is many thousands of individual calcs.

Chris Dixon: Yeah I think bitcoin is now >4 zettaflop

Ray Yousesef: How cute… Tianhe is only 142,024 times slower than the bitcoin network…


Hashrate Concern Trolls Don’t Have Credible Models or Track Records for Predictions

Bitcoin Hashing Rate over time (source: Blockchain.info)

Bitcoin Hashing Rate over time (source: Blockchain.info) 

Every few weeks, someone involved in Bitcoin writes the following somewhat breathless blog post:

1)  Block rewards account for almost all mining rewards

2) Block rewards are going to drop (next drop in 2016/2017) and drop by 50% every four years forever

3) There won’t be enough rewards for miners leading to insufficient hashing power

4) Therefore either (a) Bitcoin is in trouble (anti-Bitcoin camp) or (b) block rewards / inflation will have to be increased to keep miners incented (pro-Bitcoin camp)

Points 1 and 2 are true.

Points 3 and 4 are an exercise in ignoring all data that you can’t model, like the old cliche of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost because that is the only place he can see…


Things to ask the author when you read the inevitable Concerned-About-Hashing-Rate-In-The-Future-But-Sanguine-About-Hashing-Rate-In-The-Present Blog Post:

1) What is your assumption for BTC price at the time of the block reward drop?  Also, in the long-future (2020s before it drops again!), what are your assumptions about transaction volume and fees?

2) Isn’t it a bit odd to be predicting that BTC price certainly won’t double at least once every 4 years (particularly since reduced block rewards mean fewer BTC to market)?

3) How does your model account for the last 2 years?  The block reward in $ terms swung 10x over the last couple of years during the price run up/down.  During that period, hashing rate has gone consistently up (see chart above)   Why would a crisis emerge with a 2x swing in block rewards when it did not with a 10x shift in block rewards?

It is hard to imagine too many cases where Bitcoin is a big success and either BTC price doesn’t go up or transaction volume doesn’t go up.

– Antonis Polemitis




Emerging Market Currencies are Collapsing

  • China capital flight hits record high as yuan plunges
  • Mexico peso slumps to record low on global growth worries
  • Brazilian real at all-time low against dollar
  • Argentina’s unofficial peso currency rate hits an all-time low
  • S.Africa’s rand falls to all-time low as China woes hit emerging markets
  • Turkey’s lira sinks to record low against dollar
  • Sri Lankan rupee hits record low on importer dollar demand
  • Indian rupee depreciates to record low

Asian currencies had their biggest quarterly loss since the global financial crisis, having been battered by China’s surprise devaluation of the yuan and the prospect of a U.S. interest-rate increase.

Malaysia’s ringgit led the rout with a 14 percent slide as oil prices retreated and Prime Minister Najib Razak was caught up in a corruption investigation.

Indonesia’s rupiah weakened 9 percent against the dollar this quarter and Thailand’s baht dropped 6.9 percent, its worst performance since 2000. – Lilian Karunungan




The Trade Is The Settlement

Overstock and Patrick Byrne hosted a flashy launch party for several hundred people at Nasdaq headquarters overlooking Times Square, at which they unveiled their version of the smart-contract trading platform, t0.com (that’s “t” and zero, not the letter “o;” it’s a play off “T+3,” Street shorthand for the three days it takes a contract to settle).

Mr. Byrne unveiled it in a typically colorful, impassioned speech that included references to the Torah, Martin Luther, “the holy church of capitalism,” the development of the Nasdaq and electronic exchanges, and his own sometimes contentious history with Wall Street.

People familiar with Mr. Byrne’s long history may be surprised that he chose a site like Nasdaq for the launch. More than a decade ago, he was involved in a bitter, pitched fight against naked short sellers who were targeting Overstock shares. But, saying that he was raised on free markets, he viewed it as a sort of homecoming, and hoped that these contracts would put an end to naked shorting and other abuses.

“Think about what this is,” he said on a visit to the Journal’s office on Monday. “It’s really about getting the existing capital markets to be crypto-capital markets.” – Paul Vigna


Symbiont Issues Securities on the Bitcoin Blockchain

Symbiont offered a live demonstration of its smart-contract trading platform

Symbiont was founded in March by Counterparty and MathMoney f(x) founders to create the first issuance and trading platform for smart securities based on the blockchain technology. Now, Symbiont has issued the first Smart Securities on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Symbiont’s live platform allows institutions and investors to issue, manage, trade, clear, settle and transfer a range of financial instruments more efficiently on decentralized and distributed peer-to-peer financial networks that are cryptographically secured.

Initial use cases for Smart Securities include corporate debt, syndicated loans, securitized instruments and private equity. According to the Symbiont press release, Smart Securities bring capital markets into the blockchain era.

Smart Securities transform the way that security issuance, management, trading, and clearing and settlement take place within global capital markets. Generically known as “smart contracts,” these instruments are programmable versions of traditional securities issued on any type of distributed ledger, such as a blockchain.

Once a security is issued onto the ledger, it acts autonomously, eliminating traditionally manual mid- and back-office functions. – Giulio Prisco


Bloomberg’s Commodity Index Just Hit a 21st Century Low

Source: Zerohedge




OpenBazaar Plans November Launch

Now that several of the core devs (myself included) have formed a company and received funding, we’re changing our approach to development. We won’t be doing incremental releases every few months, but instead put out a larger version 1 release later this year.

Since we have limited time and resources, we’re dedicating it all towards making the new release something incredible. – Sam Patterson, OpenBazaar Operations Lead

The plan to concentrate on one major release allows the developers to completely rework critical components to the system, including the networking, Distributed Hash Table (DHT), and User Interface (UI).

The prototype UI has received some major changes, as demonstrated during the release presentation, and can be tested on GitHub. The design is much improved from the previous Beta.

Authorities won’t be able to snoop in due to the strong encryption used for messaging (Bitmessage), signing contracts (PGP), and digital currency. Authorities can’t request data related to activities that happen on the platform, as there is none being collected on a central server.

The standalone company OB1, incorporated in Virginia, is currently the projects most complete third party provider. Pitched by Brian Hoffman as a value added service business built on top of OpenBazaar framework, OB1 will initially be focusing on 3 core aspects:

  • Hosting Solutions: A store running 24/7 would benefit from the uptime and scalability of being hosted in the cloud. OB1 is working with cloud server provider Digital Ocean, to provide an easy to use third party solution.

  • Arbitration Services: The company wants to provide standard contracts, that are legally enforceable in court, especially for higher end trades including real estate. They aim to provide a legal framework and different contract types for different needs, goods, and services.

  • Buyer Protection: OB1 is targeting opportunities in providing escrow services, as well as insurance for buyers and sellers.

Nicola Minichiello



Anonymous decentralized markets based on two party escrow.

* Fully peer to peer (no central servers).

* No fees

* No middle men.

* No altcoin

* Open protocol and source.

Available today.


It’s inevitable that all markets are going to be decentralized, potentially anonymous, no fees, no middlemen. With the internet there’s just no reason to have centralized middlemen anymore. We can connect without them.

Why do we need Amazon or Craigslist or eBay? Why can’t people just connect to each other?

The big barrier has been a decentralized messaging system. We’re slowly piecing together the parts to solve that problem. We’re using Bitmessage to solve that problem. It’s not ideal, but it’s good enough for the scale that we need to do Craigslist and eBay like uses. – Steve Dekorte, Creator of Bitmarkets


Amazon is Now Bigger Than Walmart

The retail king has lost its crown.

The changing of the guard reflects the growing consensus that online retailing will play an increasingly central role in the global economy over the coming decades and underscores the high premium investors are placing on the growth they expect Amazon to deliver. – Matt Phillips & Shelly Banjo


Still Day One

A quick reality check.

Ecommerce as % of total retail sales, even in the US, is only 7%.

Still Day One, as Amazon calls it. – Subrahmanyam KVJ

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MinION MkI Genome Sequencer

Biology is being reduced in cost at 5 or 6 x the speed of Moore’s Law. It’s coming faster than the internet.

MinION MkI genome sequencer


In 2003 it cost $2.5 billion to sequence the human genome.

Last month Oxford Nanopore came up with an amazing device, a $1,000 gene sequencer that was deployed in Africa to look for mutations in ebola.

So we’ve gone from billions of dollars in 2003 to a $1,000 hand-held USB gene encoder – Joi Ito




Global Average Internet Speed Surges 30% Year-over-Year to 5 Mbps

Akamai Releases Q1 2015 State of the Internet Report

“We saw generally positive results across all of the key metrics during the first quarter of 2015,” said David Belson, editor of the report. “The increase in global broadband speeds demonstrates an ongoing commitment to higher standards.

* South Korea still leads with an average connection speed of 23.6 Mbps

* Thailand has the 4th fastest peak mobile connection speed in the world, one of just four countries averaging over 100 Mbps.

Akamai State of the Internet Report


BIP-47: Reusable Payment codes

FoneBTC: BIP70? BIP47 is the most import privacy development of the past 6 months.

Keonne Rodriguez: Very excited about BIP 47. Justus Ranvier has done the community a great service with this BIP. Would love to see an implementation.

Samourai Wallet: Implentation coming in 3-4 months if all goes well. We’re a small self funded team 🙂


Payment codes are a technique for creating permanent Bitcoin addresses that can be reused and publicly associated with a real-life identity without creating a loss of financial privacy.

They are similar to stealth addresses, but involve a different set of trade-offs and features that may make them more practical.

You can publicize your payment code in the same way that you can publicize your email address. Even if everyone knows your payment code, nobody can monitor the blockchain to see how many payments you have received or which transactions are yours. – Justus Ranvier




The Ratio of Educational Capital to Signal Has Never Been More Skewed

Harvard has never been a purely academic institution – offering as it has the weight of prestige that’s served as an important signal to prospective employers and proud parents since day one – very much like a Louis Vuitton purse, a new Mercedes, or an iPhone 6 – but the ratio of educational capital to signal has never been more skewed towards the latter than it is today.

A degree from Harvard has become, like Porsche, another symbol of Asian financial dominance. Sure, all of these degrees and cars and leather goods ostensibly serve some practical purpose, but really not any more than related items costing hundredths the price. And that’s the point. – Pete Dushenski


Employers Increasingly Recognizing Udacity’s Nanodegrees

Economists and technologists agree that in the future, just about everyone’s job will involve more technology. During the last few years, many local and online schools have popped up to teach people how to code. They offer a vast range of prices and techniques. Some, like Codecademy, are free, while others can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Some offer more personalized coaching, while others leave students to figure things out on their own.

Now Udacity, a four-year-old online teaching start-up, believes that after years of trial and error, it has hit on a model of vocational training that can be scaled up to teach millions of people technical skills.

Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, a specialist in artificial intelligence at Stanford University who once ran Google X, the search company’s advanced projects division, said that the “nanodegree” program that the firm created last year will result in vastly lower education costs and wider accessibility. Early data suggests the program is efficient and reliably results in new jobs.

The nanodegree works like this:

Last year, Udacity partnered with technology companies to create online courses geared toward teaching a set of discrete, highly prized technical skills — including mobile programming, data analysis and web development.

Students who complete these courses are awarded the nanodegree, a credential that Udacity has worked with Google, AT&T and other companies to turn into a new form of workplace certification.

A year after the program’s start, the company has 10,000 students enrolled in its nanodegree courses, and the number is growing by a third every month.

Udacity charges $200 a month for the courses (students can take as little or as much time as they want to finish). When they successfully complete a course, Udacity gives back half the tuition.

The company says that a typical student will earn a nanodegree in about five months — in other words, for around $500. – Farhad Manjoo


9 Places You can Learn How to Code for Free

1) MIT Open Courseware: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming

2) Coursera: Programming Languages

3) Coursera: Programming for Everybody (Python)

4) Code Academy

5) Khan Academy

6) HTML5 Rocks

7) Udemy

8) Udacity

9) edX

Larry Kim




An Asymptote Toward Zero

Commodity Prices 140 Years

“As ephemeralization escalates we can do more and more with less and less until we can do almost anything with practically nothing” – Buckminster Fuller


Over time the cost per fixed technological function will decrease. If that function persists long enough its costs begin to approach (but never reach) zero. In the goodness of time any particular technological function will exist as if it were free.

This seems to be true for almost anything we make: basic things like food stuffs and materials (often called commodities), and complicated stuff like appliances, as well as services and intangibles. The costs of all these (per fixed unit) has been dropping over time, particularly since the industrial revolution.

According to a 2002 paper published by the International Monetary Fund (“The Long-Run Behavior of Commodity Prices” by Paul Cashin and C. John McDermott, PDF), “there has been a downward trend in real commodity prices of about 1 percent per year over the last 140 years.” For a century and  half prices have been headed toward zero.

While it will keep heading toward zero, the curve follows a mathematical pattern. Assuming the functions remain the same the price will never reach its limit of the absolutely free. Instead it steadily creeps closer and closer to the limit, in an infinite series of narrowing gaps. This pattern of paralleling the limit but never crossing it is called approaching the asymptote. The price here is not zero, but effectively zero. In the vernacular it is known as “too cheap to meter”  — too close to zero to even keep track of.

Orthodox economics teaches that every producer is trying to maximize price but will “minimize the maximum” in response to competition. The more “perfect” the competition, the stronger the drive to lower prices.

The major inventions in the last 20 years have been vast improvements in communication and market mechanisms, which have accelerated the ‘perfection” of the market. Innovations such as easy reverse auctions, ubiquitous small-price auctions, searchable discounts, price aggregators, outsourcing clearinghouses, real time quotes, instant always on connection – all conditions that squeeze fluff out of the system all along the creation chain and push prices downward relentlessly. In this flat world there’s no harbor from the natural pressure toward free.

Eternal expensive scarcity is unnatural and unsustainable, while the abundant free is the ideal home for all things created. The technium conspires to guide manufactured items toward the free, where they can unleash their maximum good. The free, not the costly, is the true home of technology. –Kevin Kelly


The US economy: a tug of war between Moore’s Law (hyperdeflation) and federal subsidies (price inflation)

* Technology: disruption, automation, and an exponential drop in prices.

* Policy: bailout, subsidies, and continually rising prices.

Balaji S. Srinivasan


Wikipedia: free

EdX: free

Codecademy: free

Twitter: free

Google Search: free

Coursera/Khan Academy: free

Learn something new everyday, $0.

Mohammed Al Saqqaf


* Bloomberg Commodity Price Index Reaches  16-yr low – BCOM Quote

* Whatever isn’t deflationary deserves to die – Urban Future (2.1)




Chinese Factory Replaces 90% of Humans with Robots, Productivity Soars

A technology company has set up a factory run almost exclusively by robots, and the results are fascinating.

The Changying Precision Technology Company factory in Dongguan has automated production lines that use robotic arms to produce parts for cell phones. The factory also has automated machining equipment, autonomous transport trucks, and other automated equipment in the warehouse.

The robots have produced almost three times as many pieces as were produced before. According to the People’s Daily, production per person has increased from 8,000 pieces to 21,000 pieces. That’s a 162.5% increase.

The increased production rate hasn’t come at the cost of quality either. In fact, quality has improved. Before the robots, the product defect rate was 25%, now it is below 5%. – Conner Forrest 


Stem Cell Therapy Will be Available Within Five Years

Revolutionary stem cell therapy could end the suffering of millions of arthritis patients within as few as five years. Preliminary findings of a trial of the treatment show that within days patients experienced a dramatic reduction in pain.

Sufferers’ own stem cells were injected into their knees resulting in significantly increased joint function.

Study leader Professor Frank Barry said: “It is incredibly exciting. It is our strong belief that stem cell treatment will offer hope for millions of people.”

Osteoarthritis affects 14 per cent of over 25s and a third of all pensioners. It causes severe and chronic pain, joint stiffness and loss of function.

Currently there is no drug, medical intervention or therapy that alters its progression and many patients have to take painkillers constantly and ultimately need total joint replacement surgery. –Lucy Johnston


In Ten Years How Will Technological Advancements Enable Radical Life Extension?

I think that in the next 10 years we’re likely to hit a tipping point that I have historically called “robust mouse-rejuvenation”. I think it’s more like 6-8 years at this point, to be honest.

I believe that we’re going to reach a point where we have mice in the laboratory and we extend their lives by a sufficient magnitude and by appropriate means, so the scientific community will begin to believe strongly that we’ve cracked this; that it’s only a matter of time before we bring ageing under comprehensive medical control for human beings as well.

Once the scientific community, the acknowledged, expert, credentialed scientific community, has a consensus, that’s when my job will be done, because literally the following day Oprah Winfrey will be saying, “Well, if it’s possible and it’s only a matter of time then let’s make it as little time as possible”. Then, the day after that, it will be impossible to get elected unless you have a manifesto commitment to actually have a war on ageing, right now. – Aubrey de Grey



How SpaceX Will Colonize Mars


SpaceX Business Plan 2

“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.” – Carl Sagan


Today, no one is talking about Mars, and very few people think of Mars as a relevant part of the near future. But unless I’ve missed something big or something unexpected happens, in about 10–20 years,people will start going to Mars. You could go to Mars in your lifetime. Crazy things are on the horizon.

This is one of those topics that’s tough to absorb, because as you think about it, your mind will keep drifting back to, “Nahhhh.”

Learning about what SpaceX is doing and why they’re doing it can take you from a place where thinking the prospect of humans moving to Mars is totally ludicrous to a place where you accept the logic that it’s actually an important thing to do and something that’s possible and even likely to happen. But that’s different than really believing it’ll happen. Deep down, your brain hasn’t really accepted it. And that’s fair—your brain bases things on experience, and experience tells it that moving to Mars is not something that people ever do.

But I’m pretty sure your brain’s in for some big surprises over the next few decades. Colonizing Mars might actually—really—be based in reality.


Step 1: Send an automated spaceship to Mars just to make sure you can send something there and back”—this should happen before 2020.


Step 2: A handful of unmanned cargo missions to bring equipment, habitats, and supplies, so that when the first people start arriving, they’ll be able to not die—they’ll need access to water, a place to live, the tools to convert compounds on Mars to oxygen, fertilizer to grow crops, etc


Step 3:  Something big will happen. Someone—probably SpaceX, probably in about ten years—will send the first crew of people to Mars. For anyone under the age of 50 who’s annoyed they weren’t alive and sentient in 1969 to get caught up in the excitement of the moon landing—you’re finally going to have your day. Somewhere out there, right now on this Earth, is the Neil Armstrong of Mars. No one knows who they are—they might not even know who they are—but everyone on Earth will know their name soon.

This is gonna be a big deal.

The next time Earth laps Mars and they’re side by side is 2016—too soon to do anything. But when it happens again in the summer of 2018, don’t be surprised if a vehicle with a SpaceX logo on it touches down on Mars. Musk has thrown out a rough prediction of 2025 or 2027 for the Neil Armstrong of Mars to take that famous first step onto the planet.

But like Neil Armstrong’s famous first step, this will be a great achievement for mankind—not a giant leap. The giant leap comes next.


Step 4: With the price of a ticket plummeting downwards and the first crewed Mars mission having opened the floodgates, we’ll be ready to start colonizing. In the year 1605 the people who settled in Jamestown and Plymouth were very extreme to do so—the first groups to go to Mars will be as well.

The earliest settlers will have a hard job, like early settlers always do—they’ll have to build themselves a livable situation, and eventually, get working on the first Martian city. For this reason, Musk guesses that early on, for every spacecraft that goes to Mars carrying people, ten will need to go carrying cargo and supplies.


Step 5: Over time, more people will make the migration, the city will be increasingly developed, and the settlers will be able to start building things that make for a decent lifestyle: restaurants, bars, movie theaters, sports facilities, etc.

And then, something will start to happen.

The hardest part will be over, and more people will want to go.


The first return ships will come back with people, and it’ll remind everyone on Earth that it doesn’t have to be a one-way ticket—and more people will want to go.

The people who come back to Earth will be commended for their courage, some of the people on Mars will write best-selling books about their experience, and others will film a little TV show about the early settlement and become household names on Earth—and more people will want to go.

People on Earth will see gorgeous photos of Martians hiking around on Olympus Mons and in Valles Marinaris, a mountain and canyon far bigger than any on Earth—and more people will want to go.

People will hear about being able to jump off a 20-foot cliff without hurting yourself and watch viral YouTube clips of new kinds of extreme sports that can only be played with Mars’ 38% gravity situation—and more people will want to go.

And in case you were wondering if this is going to be a vacation jaunt, Musk explains, “It’s not going to be a vacation jaunt. It’s going to be saving up all your money and selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies.”


But he also points to the excitement and novelty of getting to found a new land—an experience that stopped being possible on Earth centuries ago: “There will be lots of interesting opportunities for anyone who wants to create anything new—from the first pizza joint to the first iron ore refinery to the first of everything. This is going to be a real exciting thing for people who want to be part of creating a civilization.”

What this all adds up to is that once the first crew lands on Mars, it seems likely that with every Earth-Mars synchronization thereafter, the number of people choosing to migrate will grow—perhaps exponentially. By 2040, Musk thinks there will be a thriving colonial Martian city.

And one day after that, sometime in the future, an incoming fleet will arrive on Mars, and for the first time, the planet’s population will top 1 million. He thinks it’ll take at least 40 or 50 years of fleet migrations to happen, which, if things start in the mid-2020s, brings us to around 2070.

Tim Urban



The Real Giant Leap for Mankind


Neil Armstrong calling the moon landing “a giant leap for mankind” is not the correct wording.

Landing on the moon is in the same category as putting the first man in space or the first person climbing Mt. Everest—it’s a great achievement for mankind. But if the first ocean animal to touch dry land simply lay there for a minute before being washed back into the ocean, it would not qualify as a giant leap for life, and the moon landing shouldn’t either.

It’s only when certain mutated fish began to live on land in a sustainable way that life as a whole made a giant leap.

Previous Giant Leaps:

* Simple cells ——> complex cells ———> multicellular life.

* Life explodes into diversity

* Life emerges from the ocean onto land

* An increasing diversification of the great apes leading to the human-chimpanzee tribe split

* The progression of the homo genus that eventually led to humans.

* Major Migrations

* The development of language, farming and writing

* The birth of the industrialized world

Colonizing Mars permanently will be a giant leap for mankind.


But shouldn’t we pause for a minute and note that it’s a little weird that after 3.8 billion years—38,000,000 centuries—that I’m claiming that this century, we may witness a giant leap on par with the six or seven greatest leaps in history? How could that possibly be?

And wait, this reminds me of something. When we dove into artificial intelligence, it certainly seemed like A) something that might explode into superintelligence in the next century, and B) something that might permanently and dramatically affect all life on the planet (for better or worse). Would that also qualify as a potential giant leap?

And—as our understanding of the human genome advances and the science of genetic engineering races forward, isn’t it conceivable that in 100 years, science may have figured out how to keep humans alive for much longer than a normal biological lifespan and put people through legitimate reverse-aging procedures? If that happened and we conquered aging, wouldn’t that also make the big, big list of significant events in life history?

What the hell is going on??

Either I’m being hopelessly naive or this is a very intense time to be alive.


When a species becomes so powerful that they can achieve giant grand-scale life leaps in under a century, they can essentially play god, in many different ways. Let’s call that reaching the God Point.

If progress is indeed accelerating, it makes sense that an advanced species would eventually hit the God Point, and there seems to be plenty of evidence that humans are either already there or very close—advancements in fields like space travel, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, particle physics, nanotechnology, and weaponry open the door to a long list of unthinkably-dramatic impacts on the future.

The reality is that we’re living in a time when we could witness multiple events in our lifetimes as impactful as life going from the ocean to land. Not only might we be on the cusp of the great leap of life becoming multi-planetary, we may be on the cusp of a bunch of other great leaps as well.


There are other signs pointing to this being an extraordinarily unusual time to be alive:

  • For 99.8% of human history, the world population was under 1 billion people. In the last .2% of that history, it has crossed the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 billion marks.
  • Up until 25 years ago, there had never been such a thing as a global brain of godlike information access and connectivity on this planet. Today we have the internet.
  • Humans walked around or rode horses for 999 of the last 1,000 centuries. In this century, we drive cars, fly planes, and land on the moon.
  • If extra-terrestrial life were looking for other life in the universe, it would be dramatically easier to find us this century than in any century before, as we project millions of signals out into space.


If we take a step back and just look at the situation, it should be clear that nothing that’s happening right now is normal.

 Current humans have FAR more power than any life on Earth ever has, and it seems very likely that if in a billion years, an alien history major writes a term paper on the history of life on Earth, the time we’re living in right now—however it turns out—will be a major part of that paper.

When a planet’s life reaches high intelligence, it usually means they’re a couple hundred thousand years away from their do-or-die moment. Their progress will accelerate faster and faster until finally they hit the God Point, when they simultaneously gain the power to forever end species vulnerability or drive themselves accidentally extinct—and it’s all about which comes first.

Those species who hit the God Point, then enter the chaos that inevitably ensues, and somehow come out alive on the other side have “made it through,” and they can officially join the universe’s community of grown-up, immortal, intelligent species.


More than any particular Mars population goal, Elon Musk wants to die knowing we’re on our way to what he describes as “the threshold at which even if the spaceships from Earth stop coming, the colony doesn’t slowly die out.” That, he says, “is the critical threshold for us as a civilization to not join the potentially large number of one-planet dead civilizations out there.” A million people is his rough estimate for where that threshold lies, but no one knows for sure.

When—if—we do one day get to that point, only then will we have made the giant leap for mankind Neil Armstrong referred to. Humanity’s future will be much more secure and much more likely to survive deep into the future.

My gut says that we’re probably much closer to the beginning of The Story of Humans and Space than the middle or the end. It seems like we’re right around the end of “Chapter 1: Confined to Earth”—maybe on the very last page. And as the story moves forward, it may begin to take place on a much wider stage than the Earth, making The Story of Humans and Space ultimately indistinguishable from The Story of Humans.

It’s no more possible to predict what will happen in those chapters than it would have been for a farmer in 2500 BC Mesopotamia to envision our world today. – Tim Urban


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